A Story of a Woman Who Defied All Odds and Is Now Bringing Education to Girls Globally
International Women’s Day signifies a movement for women all across the globe, in all walks of life. It’s a day that celebrates women and all of their achievements, but also highlights the gender disparity that still exists and promotes gender equality for every woman.
IWD has been celebrated every year on March 8 since 1911. And this year, NonProfit PRO wanted to share a story of a strong, empowering, resilient woman: Monica Singh.
Growing up in Lucknow, India, Monica had enormous creativity and dreams of ambition — to make it big in the fashion industry. So it was no surprise that after high school, she went on to one of the biggest universities for fashion design in Asia to fulfill her dream and was one of its brightest students, ranking second in the country-wide entrance exam.
When she went home for summer break at the age of 19, she rejected a marriage proposal from a close friend who had become dangerously possessive over her. That’s when things turned for the worse — he hired people to throw acid on her.
It was her willpower to stay alive that kept her alive. Her father took leave from his job and used his entire life savings for her treatment, which is up to 46 surgeries now. And thanks to the support of her father and the rest of her family, she is a living, breathing example of resilience and strength; she is now walking, talking and, most importantly, dreaming again.
Despite the troubling incident that could have taken her life, Monica continued her path toward her dream of working in the fashion industry. In 2015, she studied marketing and business at Parsons School of Design in New York.
Monica is now president and CEO of Mahendra Singh Foundation, a nonprofit named after her father that helps girls and women who are survivors of violence to overcome their obstacles, become self-sufficient and lead a path for local and global sustainable social and economic empowerment; philanthropist; and award-winning international social activist for violence against women.
In an exclusive interview with NonProfit PRO, Monica recalled when she first wanted to make a difference for young girls across the world. When she began speaking at the United Nations, and even before that, Monica recalled hearing so many incredible stories of girls going through hardships — rape, domestic abuse, trafficking, etc.
That’s when she realized her calling was to help these girls. She remembered thinking how she could support these girls, and it was providing them with the resources they need, whether it’s educational support, medical support, psychological support, etc. In many cases, especially in cases in Asia, people view the girl, not her attacker, as the problem.
“You know what? These girls are strong! I know how hard it is when you’ve been targeted, and everyone thinks that you’re no good or you’ve become more fragile. That’s not the right way of looking at these girls. These girls are strong. They just need a little support and guidance,” Monica said.
“I wanted to create a platform where girls could come without fear and without a doubt in their head that they can be supported. That’s MSF, and it’s been growing ever since,” she said.
Raising More Awareness
In celebration of this year’s IWD, Monica wanted to bring forward her two passions: fashion and philanthropy. This is why MSF partnered with FEED to release the FEED x Monica Singh Collection.
The collection features two limited-edition bags to raise awareness of gendered violence and empower survivors. The proceeds of this campaign will support MSF’s scholarship programs for survivors and will also fight childhood hunger by providing meals to kids in need across the globe.
“Education made me strong. Education gave me knowledge and made me into a strong and confident woman. I think education is the first key for these girls to have and with it, they can create a better life, instead of thinking about their awful past,” Monica explained.
With this collection, Monica used her fashion degree and philanthropic passion, and bridged the gap to make fashion that impact people’s lives in a positive way. She also wanted to break that mindset that deformity cannot be a part of the fashion and beauty industry.
For Monica, IWD is an important month — not just one day. For her, this is the month where everyone comes together and supports each other. “It is a time where women can reflect on what they have done, what they have gone through and what they are willing to do in the future. It’s incredible in its own way that we celebrate each other. We don’t celebrate one woman. We celebrate women,” she said.
“My message to every woman out there is be true to yourself because you know you are strong. You know you have the strength to prove to people who you are. And it’s very important to understand how a reflection of a woman is treated differently,” Monica shared. “Everyone is fighting for something, and we end up forgetting to celebrate each other. We end up forgetting the strength and versatility in women. As a nonprofit, I will say that, as women, we should not see each other as competition. We are in this change together. It’s time to support each other. We need to join our hands together — what we provide, you can help us; what you provide, we can help you.”